Masontown, PA Navy Bomber Crash, Mar 1956



A Navy twin-engine bomber believed to be holding the bodies of three young Navy men, two of them officers, still is buried in 12 feet of water and mub in the Monongahela River at Gray's Landing, near Masontown.
The bomber, caught in a snowstorm, crashed into the river about 12:45 a.m. Monday after apparent engine trouble. The crash site is just north of the dock of Alicia Mine of Hillman Coal Co., and on the Fayette County side near the Bridgeview Coal Co. coke ovens.
The Naval Air station at Quonset R. I., listed the plane as missing and its occupants as:
Lt. (jg) HAROLD D. TEGLER, Page, Neb., pilot.
Lt. (jg) LAWRENCE P. ASH, Colorado Springs, Colo., co-pilot.
Aviation Machinist Mate 2/C CHARLES BEAUEMEL, Bartow, Fla.
The three crewmen were en route from Columbus, Ohio, Naval Air Station to Quonset, R. I. The plane, a S-3F, is the type used by the Navy for submarine reconnaissance.
Salvage operations were delayed inasmuch as the Navy is said to have insisted that "nothing be moved until its arrival."
Maj. Samuel Posacreta, flying safety Air Force officer from the 54th Fighter Group at Greater Pittsburgh Airport, who arrived about 6:30 a.m. yesterday, said the "bodies could be anywhere in the river. If the plane is very badly broken up and the men were not strapped to their seats they may have floated out of the wreckage."
The tail assembly is the only part of the aircraft visible above the water, which was rising yesterday until only one foot of the wreckage could be seen.
Residents of the community reported the plane circled twice with no lights and as it came around the third time, the engine died. Articles found in a nearby field indicated the crew was making an effort to lighten the load. It appeared the plane turned over after hitting the water.
Masontown Volunteer Firemen raced to the scene as word of the tragedy spread throughout the mining community.
GEORGE MALONEY, 29, Grays Landing, tied a rope to the wing tip while FRANK MUNDRY, JR., Gallatin, rowed the boat carrying the line to the plane. A second rope was fastened to the plane to stabilize the wreckage before it was learned the ship had broken into several pieces.
State police reported to the scene as did Masontown Police Chief Nick Petrovich. Capt. Thomas Burns was in charge of a unit of regular Marines from the 69th Special Infantry Co., Connellsville.
A large rescue boat was expected up the river late last night or early today to aid in salvaging operations.
The Greater Pittsburgh Airport said the pilot sent a message from Wheeling shortly before the crash saying he was having "trouble with ice on the wings."
Large crowds thronged to the river bank all day yesterday.
Chief Smargie said he had been with the police force eight years and "never had seen such traffic as passed through Masontown" yesterday.
It was the third military craft to crash in the Monongahela since Dec. 22, 1954. On that date a chartered Army plane carrying 28 soldiers home for Christmas crashed, killing 10.
Last Jan. 31, an Air Force plane crashed, killing two of the six-man crew. That plane has not been found.
Another plane flying the same course as the S-2F reported trouble at the same time at night but landed safely at Parkersburg, W. Va.

The Morning Herald Uniontown Pennsylvania 1956-03-27